I can’t help but notice the irony. Recently I saw on Facebook that March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness month. Strangely enough, I have become more aware of this disease than I ever cared to be. One month ago I was diagnosed with MS.
My symptoms began about three years ago. I was seeing a chiropractor for mild back and hip pain. I just needed an adjustment.
“It’s no big deal, just the typical aches and pains of life.”
I also noticed subtle changes with my balance. I blamed it on my back. After all, if my spine was out of whack, it was probably throwing off my balance.
However, my biggest challenge was fatigue. I had good days and bad days, but most of the time, I felt tired. On really bad days my imagination got the best of me. Something must be wrong. What if I have cancer? But I always found a perfectly good reason to explain it away.
“Sure I’m tired. All moms are tired. I just need to suck it up and keep going.”
I also noticed that something seemed off while I was walking. I found myself tripping more often. I stumbled while walking up steps. I tripped while walking through the mall. It was always my right foot. Again, I blamed my awkwardness on my out-of-whack back.
One day I was playing volleyball with my girls. I couldn’t seem to get my serves over the net. I felt weak and clumsy. Again, I brushed it off. After all, I hadn’t played volleyball in a while.
Over a period of two or three years I experienced various random symptoms.
- I had an issue with my vision. The ophthalmologist couldn’t find anything wrong. In time, the problem passed.
- I briefly had vertigo (that awful, nauseating sensation that the room is spinning). My family doctor said it should pass – and it did.
- I often had headaches and felt depressed. I talked with my gynecologist about that. She blamed it on hormones.
- I went through six weeks of physical therapy, hoping to improve my issues with balance and muscle weakness. It didn’t help.
- One night I felt a weird tingling sensation in my arms. The feeling passed and never happened again.
If all of these symptoms would’ve happened at once, of course it would’ve demanded my attention. But they didn’t, so I dismissed them.
“I guess fluky things just happen sometimes.”
That’s the thing about Multiple Sclerosis. It can be difficult to diagnose. The symptoms are subtle, variable and unpredictable. They can come and go. They may be mild or severe. And they are different for everyone. I looked fine on the outside, so I assumed my symptoms were nothing serious.
Not only was I frustrated, but I was seriously afraid I was becoming a hypochondriac. No one had figured out my back pain. I was tired and depressed. I was clumsy and weak. One day someone recommended a different chiropractor. Against my better judgment, I gave him a try.
“Piecing the puzzle together and getting a diagnosis.”
Finally, after a long list of medical professionals, this doctor was the first to start piecing my symptoms together. He asked questions. He listened to my answers. And when he suspected MS, he referred me to a neurologist.
I knew very little about multiple sclerosis. It took me awhile to work up the nerve to Google it. The National MS Society described it as follows:
Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.
Symptoms occur when the immune system attacks and destroys the myelin covering on nerve fibers within the central nervous system. The resulting inflammation interrupts messages to and from the brain.
After a couple of tests, the evidence was clear. I was officially diagnosed on February 2, 2016.
As strange as it sounds, I actually felt relieved when I heard the news. Finally, I knew what I was dealing with.
My life has certainly changed over the past couple of months. I’m eating healthier, taking my vitamins and I no longer force myself to “suck it up and keep going” when I feel super tired. I’m learning to rest. I’m trying to listen to my body. And I’m leaning on my faith.
I still feel tired and weak at times, but my back and hip aren’t hurting anymore. I think that’s a step in the right direction.
My attitude has also changed. Now more than ever I want to enjoy life and live it to the fullest. After all, none of us know what the future holds.
“I already know,” he said. “I spent an hour on the phone the other night, talking with your neurologist about your test results.”
I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. I’ve got two doctors working together to help me feel better. I’m not fighting this alone. Not anymore. My doctors feel positive about my future. And so do I.
If you’d like to read more about my story, I invite you to check out, Something’s Not Right (Part 1 & 2) on my personal blog.